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Tiger Sightings Expected at Torrey Pines during Farmers Insurance Open

The roar of the waves crashing along the shores of Torrey Pines State Beach is a sound that is unrivaled along the coast, except when the PGA Tour comes to San Diego.

That’s when the roar of the crowd takes over at the Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Three years ago the crowd’s cheers reached deafening decibels at Torrey Pines, where thousands witnessed one of the more memorable moments in golf history at the 2008 U.S. Open. Tiger Woods’ stirring victory over Rocco Mediate in a playoff — the tournament extended an extra round because of a tie and then, still tied, to another extra hole — delivered Woods his 14th major championship.

Woods hasn’t played at Torrey Pines since, but there are whispers in the wind of his imminent return. Woods is expected to make his 2011 PGA Tour debut there Jan. 24-30 in the Farmers Insurance Open.

“Everybody is speculating that Tiger is going to be back this year,” said Tom Wilson, executive director of the tournament. “We’re expecting that as well. I have to be kind of guarded when I say I truly think he is going to be here, but I can’t say for sure.“He’s won it six times in the 11 years that he’s played here, so that certainly bodes well for us to have a good chance to have him here.”

Woods’ six victories at Torrey — not including the Open — include an unprecedented four straight tournament titles from 2005-08. Woods was unable to defend his title in 2009 because he was still recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. He was absent last season while dealing with personal problems.

Rumors of his return are just the beginning of the buzz and the vibe generated on the golf course when Woods is walking the grounds.

“It means a lot,” said Wilson. “The PGA Tour has done surveys on the tournaments he’s attended versus those that he hasn’t and they’ve come to the realization that he’s worth somewhere around 25 percent in additional ticket sales and probably another 10 to 15 percent in hospitality sales. So that’s huge.”

Wilson estimated that the tournament drew 120,000 to 130,000 fans each of the past two years without Woods in the field. When Tiger’s in town, Wilson estimates that the crowd swells to 150,000 to 160,000 for the week.

Obviously, no one wants to miss the magic at Torrey Pines.